Thursday, May 28, 2015

Large prevalence of liver disease spawns race for better testing

As drugmakers develop new medicines to battle liver disease epidemic, they have created an urgent need for better diagnostics to select patients for treatment and assess their drugs' effectiveness.

About 30 percent of people in the U.S. now suffer from fatty liver diseases, such as NASH (nonalcoholic steatohepatitis), fueled by obesity, diabetes and over-indulgent lifestyles, according to the American Liver Foundation. Without treatment, sufferers can develop advanced damage, including the scarring known as fibrosis; cirrhosis, which destroys liver function; and even cancer.

For now, testing patients in trials of experimental medicines involves a liver biopsy, a painful, expensive and potentially risky test. Its accuracy is also limited as it draws just a tiny piece of the liver, which may not be affected uniformly by disease.

It's a pretty nasty test involving a needle five inches long you plunge blindly into a patient's side. Researchers don't like to do them. As they can't do more than one at the beginning, one at the end (of a trial). So there's this frantic effort now to develop (diagnostics) that will give us the information necessary to know if a drug is working.

More than a dozen drugmakers are working on new treatments for liver disease. They will find eager partners in several small companies, often spawned from academic or hospital research, which are working on alternatives to liver biopsy.

Some of the new techniques use MRI scans that view the entire liver. Others involve blood tests to measure liver scarring or function. One diagnostic evaluates liver damage via exhaled breath. They could replace biopsy or be used to provide interim results during lengthy studies.

New diagnostics will also help U.S. health insurers determine which patients are most in need of treatment to keep a closer watch on cost.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Ayurvedic herbs can treat liver problem including Fatty liver, Hepatitis, Cirrhosis, Ascites and Jaundice

Kamalahar is enriched with various herbs proven to be very effective for the treatment of liver problems. It has Tecoma undulata, Phyllanthus urinaria, Embelia ribes, Taraxacum officinale, Nyctanthes arbortritis and Terminalia arjuna.

Tecoma undulata is an herb which is proven to have medicinal property that helps in curing liver diseases especially for the treatment of hepatitis. It is also used in curing urinary disorders, enlargement of spleen, gonorrhea and leucoderma. Seeds are used against abscess.

Phyllanthus urinaria has been used for centuries to promote healthy elimination of gallstones and kidney stones. It is also used for the treatment of liver disease especially hepatitis B. Phyllanthus urinaria primarily contains lignans (e.g. phyllanthine and hypophyllanthine), gallic acid, alkaloids, and bioflavonoids (e.g. quercetin). While it remains unknown as to which of these substances has an antiviral effect, researchers believe that this herb acts primarily on the liver. Other research has revealed other possible benefits like helping to soothe the liver, detoxification of the liver and kidneys, relief from pain and inflammation, reducing oxidative stress, and an ability to inhibit hepatitis B virus DNA replication. It is believed that the possible benefit that phyllanthus urinaria provides in cases of liver damage could be due to the plants anti-viral activity. In Ayurvedic medicine, Phyllanthus has been used for over 2000 years in India for many medicinal uses for those with liver disease including hepatitis.

Embelia ribes is quite beneficial in the treatment of liver ailments especially jaundice and also for strengthening the body. It also helps with gastric problem by either preventing formation of gas in the gastrointestinal tract or facilitates the expulsion of gas. It is also quite useful against tape-worms. It is believed to be useful against skin diseases, bronchitis, urinary discharges, Dyspepsia, hemicrania, worms in wounds etc.

Taraxacum officinale is believed to have a medicinal value, in particular against liver problems. It is also known to be a Diuretic and quite beneficial in the treatment of liver cirrhosis. It is also used in herbal medicines as a mild laxative, for increasing appetite, and for improving digestion. The milky latex has been used as a mosquito repellent and as a folk remedy to treat warts.

Nyctanthes arbortritis is known for its important place in Hindu mythology and this plant has many common names like Indian Night Jasmine. The flower, seeds and leaves of the plant are diuretic, antibacterial, anthelmintic, anti-inflammatory, hepatoprotective, immunopotential, anti pyretic, antioxidant, anti fungal, anti-bilious, sedative and antifilarial. It is useful in the treatment of many diseases including liver disorder. Its extract has proven by researchers to have significant hepatoprotective activity, which is ability to prevent damage to the liver and also hepatoregenerative. The herb in combination with other herbs is quite beneficial in the treatment of hepatitis, cirrhosis, alcohol liver diseases and other liver disorders. Apart from liver disorder, the herb has been used in the treatment of affections of scalp, rheumatic joint pain, malaria, snakebite, bronchitis, sciatica, chronic fever, rheumatism, internal worm infections, high blood pressure, diabetes, piles and skin diseases. Some people have also used the herb in the treatment of cancer.

Terminalia arjuna is high in co-enzyme Q-10 and helps in the treatment of cirrhosis of liver and reduces blood pressure.The arjuna was introduced into Ayurveda as a treatment for heart disease by Vagbhata. It is traditionally prepared as a milk decoction. In the Ashtānga Hridayam, Vagbhata mentions arjuna in the treatment of wounds, hemorrhages and ulcers, applied topically as a powder.
The combination of these herbs is what makes Kamalahar very effective in the treatment of liver disorders including hepatitis, cirrhosis, fatty liver, ascites and jaundice.

Europe especially Eastern Europe unaware of the hepatitis crisis

The number Europeans living with hepatitis B and C is growing, particularly in Eastern Europe. But access to treatments remains scarce, due to funding problems and a lack of awareness of the problem, say patient groups.

Over the past four decades, there has been a significant increase in Europeans affected by hepatitis B and C. These diseases kill around 120,000 people in Europe every year. However, in the case of hepatitis C, many are unaware that they have the disease, caused by a virus that primarily affects the liver, as hepatitis is often asymptomatic and progresses slowly.

While experts say that parts of Europe have good practice in terms of intervention, most countries face major challenges in delivering high-quality hepatitis care.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recommended that the EU and its member states develop and implement a hepatitis action plan that encompasses awareness, prevention and treatment across all relevant policy areas.

Therefore, in 2014, patient organisations such as the European Association for the Study of the Liver, the World Hepatitis Alliance and the European Liver Patients Association, and the pharmaceutical industry met and agreed to recommendations on how to combat hepatitis, and compiled them into a new report.

Currently, no global funding mechanism exists for hepatitis, as opposed to AIDS/HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, governments will have to find a lot of their funding for the disease domestically.

The report suggests that education and awareness raising among lawmakers, the general public and healthcare professionals is pivotal to improve the prevention and management of hepatitis C.

The links between hepatitis C and liver cancer should also be highlighted.

Concerns over Eastern Europe

In Europe, 13.3 million have hepatitis B, and 14 million are living with hepatitis C.

The European region is very diverse both in terms of the prevalence, with over 60% of the infected living in Eastern Europe and regarding recent infections. The rates are still going up there.

France and Romania are two good examples of the extreme situation in Europe, regarding the management of hepatitis C.

While France has implemented three consecutive national plans that call for efforts to prevent transmission, increase detection rates and access to treatment, Romania has no national plan, and detection and treatment rates are low.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Surrogate advertizing is boldly used by alcohol companies in India to advertize their brand

Mineral water, sodas, music and sports franchises are among the common avenues taken by alcohol manufacturers to advertise their brands in India.

Some of these ads are very attractive and creates a long recall value in the mind of the viewers. It is obvious from the ads that they brands are not promoting water or soda but instead indirectly marketing their alcohol.

There is lack of clarity about how ‘surrogate advertising’ can be monitored in the absence of overarching legislation.

At the Centre, the buck is passed on between ministries and sometimes to respective States. This is even as consumer activists urging the Government to frame a central legislation, even if effective implementation will rest with the State Governments. In fact, the self-regulating Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) already has a code on brand extension.

Surrogate advertising is not allowed as per law but Government is currently not taking any legal action against liquor brands that violate these and are habitual offenders.

Regulation of such advertising appeared to fall under the jurisdiction of at least five Ministries – Consumer Affairs, Health, Information & Broadcasting (I&B), IT and Social Justice and Empowerment. There are ambiguous court rulings on the matter where alcohol manufacturers state that the logo is the identity of the brand and using it on products other than alcohol is a legitimate business activity. So it’s mainly down to legal interpretation and in time will need to be settled by courts to establish a stated position.

Any concerted effort to clamp down on the practice would have to be led by the Health Ministry, which took the lead in curbing cigarette/tobacco advertising.

Though it does not explicitly mention surrogate advertising, sellers could be prosecuted depending on how a case is presented. That said, if mineral water advertised by an alcohol company meets requisite standards, it’s a murky area.

Direct advertising of alcoholic beverages is banned in India but private channels have often permitted surrogate advertising.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Powdered alcohol pose dangers for teenagers

Substance abuse can take many forms. Experts have their eye on something new that can lead to big problems for kids: Powdered alcohol and powdered caffeine.

Anti-drug advocates said they have concerns about everything from accidental overdoses to these substances being a gateway to other abuse, and even to people using them to drug others.

It is called Palcohol and ever since it hit the market, anti-drug advocates have been concerned.

Parents should absolutely be on the lookout for this. The packaging looks very much like powdered candies and they may glance right over it and not realize.

Palcohol comes in packets that resemble flavored drink mixes like Kool-aid, which make it easy to carry and easy to hide.

Parents may find a packet in a backpack, or even between the pages of a textbook, and not realize that it is actually powdered alcohol. All it takes is a little bit of water and it becomes full-blown liquid alcohol.

One thing that makes experts wary is how easy it could be to slipped into someone’s food or drink.

It is very potent. And it makes it very unsuspicious and unlikely that someone is going to guess that that may be happening to them.

Another worry is overdoses.

It is in a format that people are not used to. If you go into a bar, you are used to what one beer looks like or one shot looks like. But in the powdered form, we are not used to what that looks like.

Overdoses are also the big concern when it comes to powdered caffeine. People use it to help give them an edge or be alert. It is not illegal, but a little goes a long way. Overdose is enough to cause major health problems or even death.

There should be an absolute prohibition put on the powdered alcohol and powdered caffeine just because of the propensity for overuse and misuse.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Stress increases risk of death from liver disease

Researchers have linked high levels of anxiety or depression with an increased risk of death from liver disease.

The study from University of Edinburgh's Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences provides further evidence for the important links between mind and body.

Psychological stress can have a damaging effect on physical wellbeing. While researchers are not able to confirm direct cause and effect, this study does provide evidence that requires further consideration in future studies.
For the study, the team investigated responses to a questionnaire capturing psychological distress in more than 165,000 people.

They then tracked participants' progress over a 10-year period, examining who died and the causes of death.

Individuals who scored highly for symptoms of psychological distress were more likely to later die from liver disease than those with lower scores.

The study took into account factors such as alcohol consumption, obesity, diabetes and socio-economic status.

"Reasons for this are unclear as the biological links between psychological distress and liver disease are not well understood so far," the researchers said.

Previous research suggests mental distress can put people at increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

At the same time, risk factors for cardiovascular disease - such as obesity and raised blood pressure - have been linked to a common form of liver disease, known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

"In a similar way, suffering from anxiety and depression may be indirectly linked to an increased risk of death from liver disease," the authors wrote.

The study appeared in the journal Gastroenterology.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

One in three Britons may have liver disease caused by over-eating

Most liver transplants in UK are expected to be linked to over-eating by 2020, an expert has said.

Experts warned that the UK faced a “major and growing challenge” as increasing numbers of Britons are diagnosed with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

A third of Britons are thought to have the condition, according to researchers, which is caused by people eating more than their livers can cope with.

Newcastle University is set to be the centre of a new Europe-wide research programme into liver disease, with Britain among the worst-affected countries.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is one of the major and growing challenges facing the UK.

There has been a shift in the entire population. The truth is that the man in the street is carrying a few more pounds than a decade ago. The rate of liver disease has increased 400% since the 1970s.

It’s predicted that by the end of this decade, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease will be be the most common underlying reason why people are required to have liver transplants, overtaking alcohol.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease covers a wide range of conditions caused by a buildup of fat within the liver cells. It is usually seen in people who are overweight or obese.

Most people with the disease only carry small amounts of fat in their liver, which does not usually cause any symptoms. The early form of the disease is known simply as fatty liver, or steatosis.

According to a study published at the end of last year, 33% of Britons have the condition.

Details of the research programme based at Newcastle University are set to be announced later this month.